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Local woman finds vintage camera full of old KSD photos

Lara Heck was perusing Goodwill in June of last year when she found an old camera that caught her eye. Little did she know, she’d find out in February who it belonged to and where the photos on it were taken.

“It just was a cool, old camera, and I just love old, vintage things anyway,” she said. “So I picked it up and was just looking it over and kind of took it apart.”

She realized there was a roll of film in the camera. She asked a friend of hers who is a photographer if the film looked like it had been used and he said it did, but there might not necessarily be photos on it.

Heck took the film to CVS, but they sent it back and said they couldn’t develop it. So began Heck’s search for organizations that would and could develop the old film.

First she sent it to The Darkroom, which sent the film back. Then with their suggestion, she contacted Film Rescue. From there, it took three months for them to develop the photos because she said they develop in batches, so they wait to have multiples of the same types of film. The slow speed was also due to the holidays and COVID-19, Heck said. It was estimated that the photos were 50 to 60 years old.

Film Rescue sent a link to the photos, and Heck shared a Facebook live post on Feb. 10 to her page showing the film reveal of the photos.

Heck said it hadn’t occurred to her before she saw them that the photos might be of local people and places, but they were. In the photos, young people sporting bellbottoms played pool and other games. A man shoveled snow outside a house with dark shutters.

Wanting to find out who owned the camera and where the photos were taken, Heck posted the photos to her page asking for help on the same day, and city commissioner Jennie Hollon shared her post in the Facebook group “You might be from Boyle Co. if …” where people can share local photos and memories.

“It was like less than 24 hours” for people to figure out where and when the photos were from, Heck said with a laugh.

The photos

The photos were traced back likely to around the 1970s, judging by the pictured people’s clothes and other features, as well as some context of the history of the photos. Rhonda Bodner, who works at Kentucky School for the Deaf at the front desk at Brady Hall and has worked at the school for 43 years in multiple positions, traced the camera to the late Daniel and Mildred Middleton, a husband and wife who worked at KSD for many years. Bodner said Mildred often took photos. Mildred died April 15, 2008 at age 91, and Daniel preceded her in death. Daniel was recognized as the man shoveling snow in two of the photos, outside a house he and Mildred shared on Jefferson Street at the time.

Bodner is Deaf and was a student at KSD herself. Mildred was a houseparent for several dorms at KSD from 1944 to 1974, then a dean of girls from 1974 until she retired in June 1980, Bodner said. She was Bodner’s houseparent and dean at one point. The Middletons both oversaw several dorms and were involved in a lot of organizations, Bodner said.

“They were very instrumental in the leadership of the Deaf school, and they were part of it for 38 years,” she said.

The photos of students playing pool, ping pong and other games appear to be taken in the basement of Nancy Lee Hall during high school recreation time, Bodner said. Nancy Lee Hall is a building no longer in use, but still standing, and it used to be a girls’ vocational high school to learn typing, sewing, cooking, art and other skills. In the ‘80s its use changed, and the building was expanded.

Bodner recognized the basement of the building from a 1973 yearbook photo of students pictured in front of the same flag painted on the wall and same background that appears in the photos Heck found.

Nancy Lee Hall is located on Second Street on the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. across from Jacobs Hall on one side and across from Bruce Hall, one of the dorms Mildred oversaw, and Barbee Hall, on the other side.